Amtrak's human resources department does not have sufficient leadership or staff to effectively recruit, screen, hire and onboard new employees, which will likely hinder the railroad’s plans to add 2,500 to 3,500 employees this fiscal year, an Amtrak Office of Inspector General (OIG) report last week found.
The report, Human Resources: Department Will Face Challenges Supporting Workforce Growth Plans, paints a picture of a department struggling to adapt and keep up with ambitious hiring plans in the midst of the Great Resignation. It makes the point that Amtrak lacks "staff to effectively recruit, screen, hire, and onboard new employees, which will likely hinder the company’s plans to build its workforce by as much as 21 percent over the next year."
The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will further increase the railroad's need to add managers and workers with highly specialized skills in the engineering, mechanical and transportation departments to oversee and execute high-priority capital projects, according to the report.
As of October 2021, however, 28 of 64 (44%) of the positions in the Amtrak talent acquisition group were vacant. Included in this list are several strategic roles: Vice-President, the Assistant Vice-President, and one of three director positions. The Director missing is needed to work with staffing agencies. Utilizing agencies is part of the stop-gap strategy currently being pursued, albeit without anyone to run the program. The team "is without experienced executive leadership at a time when a high-functioning recruiting group is essential to the company’s workforce recovery and growth", the report notes
As a result, general HR staff are taking on workloads double the industry standard, leading to burnout, causing hiring delays, and diverting managers' attention from more strategic priorities.
The report also calls out process issues, many of which are manual and redundant. Technology looks to be a burden, as well: "Further, the talent acquisition group has been relying on outdated technology resources, including a manual process for approving new positions that it describes as cumbersome and error-prone. Recruiters also manually review job applications without the aid of commonly used automated screening tools."
Currently, Amtrak uses SAP SuccessFactors for its ATS.
The railroad is reviewing options that could help address compensation disparities and make recruiting for HR executive positions easier. It has not, however, explored and developed meaningful solutions to address other competitive barriers, which could risk prolonged gaps in several key HR leadership functions.
The OIG recommended that Amtrak explore and develop solutions to address competitive barriers to attracting executive talent. Additionally, the OIG recommended that Amtrak fill the position responsible for overseeing third-party recruiting contracts.
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